Hey guys, it’s Babywise Friendly Blog Network day today and I’m posting at Babywise Mom on acceptance, belonging, and how to ensure our children don’t feel rejected by us even that isn’t our intention. Today Maureen from Childwise Chat is going to share how she teaches table manners to her kiddos. I most definitely needed some tips this week :)
Teaching table manners is parenting 101. There’s something about sitting at a table with someone with bad manners that makes our food completely unpalatable. I’m particularly susceptible to feeling nauseous if I sit next to someone who chews with his mouth open or makes smacking noises while eating. If I know ahead of time that someone with bad manners will be sitting at the table, I will make a point not to sit next to that person. Sad, but true.
But how should we go about teaching table manners? Let’s break it down.
There’s no reason our children should reach adulthood without learning table manners. In fact, the earlier we teach them, the easier it will be. Once certain habits become ingrained, it’s difficult to rid ourselves of them. So go ahead and start teaching your babies and toddlers. Once a child is able to sit in a highchair and feed himself, table manners training should begin.
Set Clear Expectations
As with anything in parenting, we cannot expect certain behaviors of our children if we don’t first teach them what we expect. Tell your child clearly what you mean when you expect good manners. Does this mean chewing with his mouth closed? Having a napkin on his lap? Using silverware properly?
Speaking of silverware, this can be a sticky issue. We always want to be consistent, but silverware usage is very inconsistent in our society. Why is it okay to eat a sandwich with our fingers but not spaghetti? For that matter, why is it okay to eat raw carrots with our fingers but not cooked ones? Be sure to explain to your child when you expect him to use silverware and when it’s okay to use his fingers. Model this behavior for him.
Have Family Dinners
Speaking of modeling behavior, make it a point to have family dinners most nights of the week. The benefits of family dinners reach far and wide. Yet many people spend their evenings driving to sporting events or dance classes and end up eating in the car or grabbing something in the drive-through. (Talk about irony, spending time exercising yet eating a super unhealthy dinner.)
Even if your kids aren’t yet of the age when you’re driving from activity to activity, beware of the temptation to put the kids to bed early and have a quiet, peaceful dinner with your spouse. It’s true that dinners with toddlers aren’t always the most pleasant experience. And yes, they need to go to bed early. And yes, sometimes our husbands get home from work late. If that’s the case, have family lunches on the weekend. Just make it happen.
In addition to modeling table manners, family dinners help us make sure we’re feeding kids healthy food. When we feed our kids early, it can be tempting to throw something together quickly rather than making a full meal. Chicken nuggets should not be a staple on the dinner table.
Keep Mealtimes in the Funnel
Most Babywise moms I know are particularly in tune with milestones and moving our kids on to the next phase of development when they show readiness. However, mealtimes are often a different matter. It’s important to not expect too much of our kids when it comes to table manners, but at the same time, we need to give them more responsibility at the table when they show that they’re ready. Here are some factors to consider when keeping the child in the funnel at the dinner table:
Give him real dishes. Plastic plates, sippy cups, and airplane forks should be done by the time the child is 2 or 3. If you’re worried about him breaking dishes, teach him proper usage and practice with the plastic plates. (Or use paper plates. Food on plastic makes me cringe.) If your child consistently throws plastic plates on the floor, he’s not ready for real plates. So make it a point to train this behavior out of him before you move on to real dishes. But do move on.
Give him a napkin. Yes, bibs and sponges make cleanup easy for us, but we need to teach our kids how to wipe their hands and faces. Confession: my 6-year-old has developed a horrible habit of wiping his face with his shirt. I don’t know how this one slipped my notice, but we’re working on it with gusto!
Expect neat eating. There are some kids who cannot eat a meal without getting the food all over their faces. This tends to be a sensory thing, but that doesn’t mean we need to accept it. If you end every meal giving the child a full wipe-down, start teaching him how to eat neatly. Teach him to let food fall/drip off the spoon or fork before putting it into his mouth. Have him wipe his mouth with a napkin after every bite if food ends up on his face. Licking food off cheeks should be discouraged.
Eat at the table. This should be a no-brainer, but some parents allow their kids to eat all over the house. This usually applies to snacking, but in our house, ALL food is eaten at the table.
Require one “no thank you” bite. Picky eating is a bigger issue, but make it a point to require one “no thank you” bite of everything on his plate. He cannot push the food away without trying it first.
Discipline Bad Manners
As with any habits we teach our kids, we can start disciplining if we’ve done everything in our power to curb bad manners. If we’ve set expectations, kept the child in the funnel, and modeled good manners, there still will be times when our kids make bad choices. So take the time to discipline them for it.
When my youngest was still in the highchair and drinking milk from a bottle, he had this horrible habit of launching his bottle across the kitchen when he was done. The boy had quite an arm. But it was maddening. He did it night after night, no matter how much I told him not to. So I had to start disciplining him for it. I set up a pack-n-play around the corner from where we sat and I would swiftly take him out of his highchair and plop him in there every time he threw his bottle.
Yes, sometimes he was covered in food, but I couldn’t take the time to wash him up before I put him in there. It would lose effect. I dealt with the mess later. We would do our little timeout routine, which included getting eye contact while offering some sort of verbal apology. (He wasn’t very verbal at this time.) When we were done, I set him down and had him pick up his bottle off the floor.
Teaching table manners is important. Start today. If you’re unsure how to start or what to expect, sit down with a pen and paper and jot down what you think are the most important rules for table manners. Eating with mouth closed? Swallow before you speak? Proper silverware usage? Whatever it is, decide what good table manners means to you and start teaching!
Maureen Monfore is a mother of two young boys, a freelance writer, and the author of ChildwiseChat.com and the eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. A loyal follower of the teachings of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, she is passionate about teaching children to obey to pave the way for fun, love, learning, and essential moral development.
How are your children’s table manners? What worked for you?
Want to learn your parenting style?
Each of us have our own personality, temperament, and giftings. And, the truth is, we parent best when we work with these instead of against them. Take this assessment so you can work to your strengths, and be the mom you want to be for yourself and your children.
New to this community? Start here, friend.